Having a baby is nothing short of a miracle. A woman’s body takes the [small] contribution of DNA from her partner and creates an entire human being. I’m always amazed every time I stop and think about the process. As amazing as all that is, the scariest part is the ending—the baby has got to come out somehow. Labor and delivery can be terrifying (read more here) but then a woman goes through a whole new, and often difficult, experience of postpartum. Yippee ki-yay mother f—ker.
I took the classes, I read the books, but nothing truly prepared me for my postpartum journey. I fortunately had a good friend that told me some of the not-so-glamourous, in fact downright nasty, truths of a woman’s postpartum journey. And I’m so glad she did! Let me demystify the mysteries of what happens after the baby comes out. Why not start in the delivery room?
- The labor doesn’t stop at the baby.
Exhausted, my baby was finally out. THANK YOU JESUS. My entire body collapsed into a jelly-like state. “Oh no,” the doctor said, “you’re not quite done yet.” Say what? She then proceeded to rub and knead my lower abdomen like pizza dough. A procedure performed by either a nurse or doctor, the uterine massage is an effort to help the placenta release from the uterine wall, which you will then push out and “deliver” like a baby. Fortunately, this is nothing compared to the actual labor, and it is fairly easy to push out. Word of warning, the placenta is EFFING HUGE. I wasn’t ready for my baby’s internal anchor to look like a veiny, multi-colored dinner plate. But it was actually pretty cool! If you have a c-section, the doctor typically removes the placenta before closing you up.
- You still look pregnant after birth.
Basic reasoning stands that after the cause of your bump goes out, you should deflate right? Wrong. Sadly, so wrong. After birth, there is still a lot of blood, fluid, and a giant uterus still left behind. It takes time for your body to get back to normal, so don’t expect to look like your old self right away. Typically, a woman looks about six months pregnant after the baby comes out. I was super surprised that I still had a big belly when I looked at myself in the mirror. But hell, by that point I didn’t really give a flying f—k. Your body has undergone nine months of logic-defying distortion, so be kind to yourself. It’s okay to still have a little Buddha belly months later. It’s just a friendly reminder of the work you put into your offspring.
- You bleed like an M-Fer.
Like your baby, the extra accumulated blood you’ve been holding in your uterus for nine months has to come out somehow. This is called “lochia” and the books lead you to believe that this will resemble “a heavy period.” My ass it does. This was like no period I’ve ever had. And since you cannot wear tampons (like you would even want to after pushing out a watermelon), the hospital graciously gives you school-bus sized maxi pads. These babies are like three maxi pads put together. No worries, you won’t have to be concerned about how to keep the pad in your underwear, because the hospital also gives you fancy mesh undies that stretch up to your waist and can hold your pad, witch-hazel pads, ice pack, and whatever else that nurse wants to put up under your vagina, in place. Score.
- You become a human sprinkler.
Breastfeeding can be an incredibly difficult (but worth it!) journey. I just assumed babies latch on and the milk is there ready to go. Not so. It takes a few days for the milk to fully come in, and when it does, you will be shocked at how your body changes. When breasts engorge they look like a Dolly Parton bad boob job. Huge, heavy, and rock hard, I almost cried in the dressing room at Motherhood Maternity trying on bras—so do NOT go nursing bra shopping on your engorgement day. Once your boobies adjust, it gets a lot better. I had always assumed milk just came out in a straight line (i.e. a water gun) and not a full-fledge sprinkler system (i.e. multiple streams spraying in every direction possible and soaking everything). It was insane. So just be prepared that you will definitely spray your baby in the face, probably quite often!
- Postpartum depression can manifest as anxiety.
I was screened many times for postpartum depression by the hospital, OB, and my baby’s pediatrician—fairly standard for any new mom. I didn’t have any immediate problems, so I was happy to report that I felt great! However, about 3 months in I started having a lot of anxiety. I couldn’t pin point the cause, and felt relieved when I talked to other mothers that experienced the same. Depression can manifest in many ways to varying degrees. If you feel blue, or just off your game for any reason, talk to someone. Don’t feel like a failure or that it means you can’t handle motherhood, because it doesn’t. Your hormones don’t define you, your bomb-ass mothering skills do. You got this, girl.
- You don’t need sleep.
For the first 3 months, I was so high on motherhood and adrenaline that I felt invincible. An hour or two of sleep at a time? No problem. I didn’t need sleep! I actually dreaded sunset because it meant that a night of being constantly woken up just when you fall asleep was imminent. I sighed with relief at daybreak, because it meant I could just stay up. Unfortunately, I learned why sleep deprivation is used as a method of torture. I know everyone tells you to sleep when the baby sleeps, and it gets super annoying. It’s not always possible! We aren’t newborns, and can’t sleep like they do. However, heed my warning, and take a damn nap, ok?
- You lose your hair.
Every woman dreams about that shiny, full, healthy hair that comes along with pregnancy. Unfortunately, the change in hormones once the baby is out means that the hair comes out with it. I didn’t gain a lot of extra hair during pregnancy, but I have been losing a decent amount… daily. It’s a little unnerving to say the least. This begins about the third month and lasts for about a month. Don’t worry, anything lost will grow back.
- You’re hungry AF.
As a breastfeeding new mom, I couldn’t believe how hungry I was every hour, even at night! I was hungrier postpartum than I ever was while pregnant. This makes sense, considering a breastfeeding mom needs to consume 500 calories+ per day to keep up with her baby’s feeding demands. Listen to your body, if you are hungry, eat! I enjoyed superfluous amounts of lasagna and ice cream postpartum. Sorry, not sorry.
- You’re officially a bad ass bitch.
GIRL. You successfully grew and birthed a human. You are so bad ass! Even though my journey to motherhood is just beginning, I have never felt so powerful. I have an inner peace that I didn’t think possible, and love that little chubby, balding boy more than I ever could have imagined. Major, major kudos to you mama, what an accomplishment!